Preview: 'Avatar' Should Not Let Fans Down
December 17th, 2009 1:45pm EST | By: Dee Doyle
Over the years James Cameron has developed a serious reputation for himself, and whether or not this will help or hurt his latest project "Avatar" remains to be seen. After his hit films like "Terminator," "Terminator 2," "Aliens," and "Titanic," Cameron has made a name for epic adventures, revolutionary technology, and brilliant vision. Ever since "Avatar" was announced it has garnered a great deal of interest and speculation, mostly because it is the first project of Cameron's since his highest grossing film (of all time) "Titanic," and because he swore it would bring special effects to a whole new level.
Cameron actually wrote "Avatar" in 1994, so it is remarkable that this vision of his took so long to complete. This has a great deal to do with the technology that is required to make the film, and how patient Cameron was to wait for the film industry advanced enough to fulfill his vision. The major innovations of "Avatar" involve motion capture animation which allowed Cameron to directly monitor the actors as they speak and their characters on a screen. This was coupled with a performance-capture stage that is like nothing else ever used on a film before, even for the very best of CGI animation. This is particularly important for the actors that will be the alien creatures in the film "Avatar," because it helped for him to see how the emotions would flicker across the face of the characters themselves. It is 3D, fit for the IMAX, and promises to be the most visually stunning movie we've seen yet.
Okay, so "Avatar" is really pretty, but what else is there to it? The story is that a paralyzed former marine, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), joined the Avatar program on the planet of Pandora. Pandora has an important source of the mineral unobtainium which is important to the human race to attain, but they are incapable of going down onto Pandora itself. They have created the ability to transport the brains of their soldiers into the bodies of Pandora's native creatures, the Na'vi. Jake it sent to infiltrate the Na'vi and gain their trust, all in an attempt to push them out of their home since that's where the mineral is located. Jake is trained by Dr. Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) and partnered by Marine pilot Trudy Chacon (Michelle Rodriguez) on the planet.
Image © Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
After getting used to the wild and beautiful world of Pandora, Jake runs into a female Na'vi by the name of Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) who he makes a connection to. He meets her tribe and starts connecting to the people, but slowly he starts to wonder how just the cause of his human companions are. He bonds with the Na'vi and may just have to turn his back on his own people to do what is right.
Let's be honest, this isn't the most original of story ideas. The stranger in a strange land idea is one often seen on the screen, as is the infiltrator that learns to love the enemy. The story doesn't need to be unique to be interesting, but there is nothing really new on that front. It is the visual technology of this movie that drives all of the controversy and discussion about "Avatar." It has been heralded as changing the movie world, and one of the major problems is that the creators and designers of the film keep saying this. It's a little off-putting to sell your own product without even a degree or real humility, and this does cause critics and movie goers alike to say 'we'll be the judge of that.' Plus there's always the danger of a backlash for a blockbuster that has spent years pumping itself up as the best thing ever, so it may be that Cameron and his crew got ahead of themselves.
Image © Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Then there's the expense. The budget was over $200 million dollars, even more than that after the extreme marketing campaign, and it could have trouble making a huge profit considering how much was already spent on it. Despite the over hyping and the ridiculous budget, "Avatar" has gotten excellent early reviews so far. I got a chance to see the early 20 minutes or so of footage, and it was sincerely the most beautiful thing I've seen on a screen. The Pandora planet is fascinating and detailed enough to be considered real art, and the action battles promise to be exciting. Cameron has not let down his fans yet, so why expect him to do so now? This is a work of art and of love. "Avatar" is in theaters this weekend and the IMAX comes highly recommended if there is one nearby. This is the kind of movie that was made for the 3D IMAX experience.
Story by Chelsea Doyle
Starpulse contributing writer
Follow Chelsea on twitter at http://twitter.com/mustbethursday.
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